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New Thoughts on Gastric Ulcers in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · August 26, 2016

Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) describes horses with erosions or other compromises of the stomach wall. Some horses show few signs of EGUS, whereas others colic, develop diarrhea, and have poor appetites, dull coats, decreased performance, and even behavior changes. Many ulcers develop in the squamous or nonglandular part of the stomach. According to the research team behind a new study*, EGUS should no longer be used as an all-encompassing term. Instead, horses with ulcers affecting the glandular region of the stomach, where stomach acid is produced, should be described as having equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD).

“Not very much is known about EGGD, including risk factors, how they develop, or whether or not the same treatment and management options work for EGGD as EGUS,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

In their study, Monki and colleagues from the University of Helsinki’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Finland sought to better describe ulcers and erosions of the glandular part of the stomach. Any adult horse that underwent gastroscopy (video imaging of the lining of the stomach) in their hospital in 2013 and 2014 was included in the study. In addition to using the gastroscopy findings to identify horses with ulcers, owners of the horses were asked to complete surveys to collect data regarding risk factors for EGGD. In total, 83 horses with EGGD and 34 control horses (those with no evidence of either EGGD or ulcers in the nonglandular region) were included. Key findings of the study were:

  • Horses with Warmblood breeding were more likely to have EGGD;
  • Horses with an increased number of riders or caretakers were more likely to have EGGD;
  • Oddly, horses with sand enteropathy had a lower risk of EGGD; and
  • The incidence of ulcers in the nonglandular region was similar to other published studies.

Based on these preliminary data, the researchers suggested that additional studies, including some with other breeds (e.g., Thoroughbreds, which are at high risk for gastric ulcers), should be conducted. They wrote, “Identification of risk factors allows speculation on potential pathophysiological mechanisms of EGGD.”

Although omeprazole is an effective therapeutic agent for EGUS, consider other ways to minimize ulcer development.

“KER offers products to support gastrointestinal health, including RiteTrac, available in the U.S. and other markets. This product quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment,” explained Crandell.

Australian horse owners are advised to look for these research-proven products.

*Monki, J., M. Hewetson, A.-M.K. Virtala. 2016. Risk factors for equine gastric glandular disease: A case-control study in a Finnish referral hospital population. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 30:1270-1275.